Federal Bank Regulators Focus on Crypto Asset Sector

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Throughout 2020 and 2021, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“the OCC”) issued Interpretive Letters providing guidance regarding bank involvement with cryptocurrency. For instance, on November 18, 2021, the OCC’s Chief Counsel issued a letter providing that certain cryptocurrency-related activities would be permissible provided that the subject bank had confirmed “non-objection” to engage in such activities from the OCC’s supervisory office. The requesting bank must ensure that certain risk management protections were in place (e.g., ensuring proper liquidity and compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act). 

Less than a week later, on November 23, 2021, the OCC issued a Joint Statement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“the FDIC”) advising that the agencies will be analyzing crypto-related activities in 2022 with a goal of providing more clarity as to various legalities associated therewith. The Joint Statement identified the following main areas to be addressed:

  • Crypto-asset safekeeping and traditional custody services.
  • Ancillary custody services.
  • Facilitation of customer purchases and sales of crypto-assets.
  • Loans collateralized by crypto-assets.
  • Issuance and distribution of stable coins (bank-issued), and
  • The holding of crypto-assets on balance sheet.

The OCC has been heavily focused on assessing crypto-activities in recent years. The Joint Statement indicates that both the OCC and FDIC will continue analyzing such activities this year.

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